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I’ve variously been on again off again regarding computer/video games. Early on I had this fantasy concept that Leo would only be allowed to play computer games that he programmed himself, and that held for a little while, during which time we created some interesting, although laughably poor, games on the HopScotch platform. Since then we’ve engaged in several rounds of brief run-ins with puzzle games such as Where’s My Water and Monument Valley, and a couple others. We finally came to a mutual landing on Minecraft, which is at least slightly creative, and has a lot of programming and math_ed potential. Still, his media (including games) time is quite limited.

Another game that Leo has become enamored with (within the tight content and time controls that we put on him) is Portal, which is an extremely clever puzzle game with amazing graphics. (It has a tiny bit of robot violence, but is generally just a clever puzzle.) One of the best parts of Portal is that your adventure through the “lab” is narrated by an AI companion, named Glados (in Portal 2 it’s Wheatley). There some kind of complex back story, where Glados was a person uploaded into a computer, but Wheatley is a fully self-conscious AI. Of course, what these “AI”s say is completely canned, but it’s also (sometimes) clever and (often) funny.

Somewhat to my surprise, Leo’s interest in the games, combined with the (sometimes/often) clever/funny commentaries from the companion (pseudo) “AI”s has gotten Leo interested in AI more generally. Yesterday, Leo was monkeying with the Chegg flashcard app on my phone (for no reason other than wasting time on a long car ride), and, unbidden, he created some AI flashcards:

I have a bit of personal history with this sort of AI, having been the author (many many year ago — like, 1973!) of a BASIC version of Eliza that ran in very early PCs, and so became extremely popular. Indeed, I’ll bet that my Eliza is about the most knocked-off (as in copied/modified) program on the planet!

I happen to have a copy of Peter Schorn’s iAltair on my iPhone that coincidentally comes with a close knock-off of my actual old BASIC Eliza! So, since Leo is interested, having done the AI flash cards, I put him on my Eliza, now, um, 2018-1973=45 years later!

Here’s their conversation:


A while back we did a little toe-in-the-water experiment, using Lisp to write (bad) poetry. So, next week we’re going to start writing our own AI!